Ford Stand-downs For July As Falcon Slides And 'Big Rigs' Soar Photo:

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Tim O'Brien | Jun, 14 2012 | 9 Comments

Tough days at Ford Australia, and for its Campbellfield and Geelong workforce.

With Falcon sales for the year down 25.2 percent on the large sedan's 2011 performance, and an announced $290million loss on its operations for the previous year, Ford Australia has announced a seven day shut-down for July.

The closure will affect both Campbellfield and Geelong plants. Workers will be stood down for the period, but no permanent job losses have been announced.

Although the Ford Australia-built Territory is performing strongly in its segment with 1280 sales for May, and up 72.8 percent on last year's sales (year-to-date), sales for the Falcon have continued to slide.

Last month it sold 1008 units compared to the 2521 sales of the Commodore and the 4626 sales of the country's top-selling car, Toyota's rampant HiLux.

It's not a shift to small cars that is pounding the Falcon, it's a buyer shift of 'large car buyers' into big rigs, pick-ups and SUVs.

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The gigantic Toyota Landcruiser wagon came close to matching the Falcon's performance with 962 sales for May, and the Prado notched up nearly double, with 1900 disembarking Toyota showrooms in May.

The issue now for Ford, and the reason for the one-week shut-down, is to match production to sales.

This announcement, although not directly related, follows job losses at Ford's performance arm, FPV, where 15 staff including general manager Rod Barrett, were terminated.

Ford Australia is meeting with union leaders for what are likely to be difficult workplace negotiations.

The broader issue of course is the future for Falcon, and if it has one. Certainly, on current sales performance, an indigenous replacement is unlikely beyond 2016.

In January, Ford Australia announced a $103million co-investment in its local manufacturing operation, comprised of a $34million commitment by the Federal Government and around $19million from the Victorian Government.

But as we have commented in earlier pieces, the next Falcon may be manufactured here, or it may not. It may be a re-engineered US Taurus, or it may not. But it will be what Ford US decides fits best under its One Ford strategy.

And it will be what will best deliver a profitable return on investment.

In the longer term, Ford’s rear-drive indigenous Aussie platform is as good as gone. Despite assurances that region-specific platforms will continue to have a place under the One Ford strategy, the Falcon is too easily replaced by similar products from the Ford stable.

We're driving an Ecoboost Falcon at the moment. It is astonishing that such a well-engineered, well-constructed, comfortable and swift car struggles to gain traction in this rapidly changing market.

The Falcon may be sliding out of favour in showrooms, but it's through no fault of the car.

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